Inspired by a woodworker’s plane, the first safety razor was invented by in the late 1700's in France. The design was perfected during the 1800's by British and German companies, but it was not until a traveling salesman from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, King Camp Gillette, patented his design for the double-edged razor in 1904, that the the modern safety razor challenged the popularity of the straight razor. By securing a contract with the U.S. Military to supply the Gillette Safety Razor to each and every G.I. during World War II, these virtually indestructible little tools became the standard issue shaving implements world-wide for decades. Wilkinson Sword, a British company, introduced the stainless steel blade in the 1960s, significantly improving blade life, as well as creating an iconic object that has become an international symbol for “danger.” Adopted by 1970's punks as a symbol of the movement, the double edged razor blade has been adapted for use as drug paraphernalia, jailhouse shiv, and professional wrestling blood-letting tool.
With the advent of the era of cheap, plastic and disposable, U.S. manufacturing of the Gillette-style safety razor has ceased, but they are still found at nearly every American drugstore or grocery. Because of the longevity of the handle as well as the steel blades, they continue to be manufactured and used around the planet, and have, arguably, the lowest environmental impact of any shaver, with the exception of the traditional straight razor.